Honoring the Founder of the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics

Hugh Jordan Courtney

July 8, 1932 - June 15, 2020
"Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die."
Poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Hugh Jordan Courtney passed the threshold quietly in his sleep on June 15, 2020, at the noble age of 87 in Woolwine, Virginia. Hugh was a man of great feelings and high standards. He entered the world on Friday, July 8, 1932, in Cook County, IL. Little did anyone know at the time how much land this one man’s work would heal.

Hugh lived many lives. In an early version of himself, he was Lieutenant in the Navy. An intermediary form of himself manifested as a librarian. But his true vocation blossomed as a champion of the Earth and its redemption. For decades he crafted special herbal remedies to stimulate the renewal of exhausted farmland for the renewal of our common home and the furtherance of our spiritual development. He inherited his mantle from Josephine Porter who herself had received her initiation from the harbinger of biodynamics to North America, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer – an immediate student of the visionary spiritual leader, Rudolf Steiner. The strand connecting Steiner to Courtney is short and direct.

Hugh was a seasoned astronomer and astrologer as well as a member of the Anthroposophical Society in America for over 40 years.

Hugh met Josephine Porter on Sunday, August 8, 1976, during the Biodynamic Association Conference at Threefold Farm, Spring Valley, NY. One decade later Hugh founded the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics, (JPI), extending the legacy of his mentor. Hugh Courtney conceived of the “sequential spray” technique in 1988 for increasing rainfall on a farm. He was the author of the best selling introduction to biodynamic agriculture What is Biodynamics? (SteinerBooks 10/4/05), which integrates biodynamic agriculture within the framework of Rudolf Steiner’s greater cosmology.

In 2009 Hugh founded Earth Legacy Agriculture with his grandson Jeremiah to encourage more large-scale agriculture applications of biodynamic preparations to heal ever more land. He continued to research effective pest remedies for further developing the indications given by Rudolf Steiner.

During his time, Hugh mentoring provided us many more preparation makers including Lloyd Nelson, Larry Mabe, Pat Fraizer, Matias Baker, Florence Rewinski, Laura Riccardi Lyvers, Jason Harris, Bob Lehman, and Stewart Lundy, just to name a few.

Hugh is survived by his wife Elisabeth and her children as well as his siblings: Don, Bill, & Lynn; his children: Mark, Elaine, Gwen & Blair; his grandchildren: Shannon, Jessica, Jeremiah, Joshua, Zachariah, Juliana, & Michael; and his great grandchildren: Zane, Tyler, Brielle, Liam, Ryder, Stella, Odin, Till, & Oaklyn.

His favorite saying was “God’s in charge.” And his work embodied this. Not only is there a plan, but he was actively participating in the divine plan and helping farmers and gardeners join in their sacred work as well.

With the discipline of a soldier, the guise of a farmer, and the fastidiousness of a librarian, Hugh established his spiritual home with practical anthroposophy. He may be gone, but his work is not finished.

The family requests no flowers. Donations can be made in the honor of Hugh Courtney by sending a check to the Christian Appalachian Project, Seed & Library Program, PO Box 55911 Lexington, Kentucky 40555-5911

Cremation and service to be announced.

Much thanks to Divine Orchestration, Elizabeth Courtney, Jeremiah Proctor, Stewart Lundy, Amy Hamilton, Lauri Wilson, Larry Mabe, Peter Blake, and Hazel Archer Ginsberg for making this obituary possible.



Please leave a comment below with any memories you may have of Hugh.

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1 comment

Hugh was a friend. Visited and stayed with him in VA once. Showed me my first real introduction/encounter with B-D. He came here to our neck of the woods twice – once to teach a B-D class in one of my viticulture conferences, and another to create some black rot ash for grapes. He was a special person very connected to the spiritual world. Watched him bless one of our fruit trees to get it growing in the right direction. Amazing talents!
He will be missed by our farm community here in the mountains.

Chuck Blethen

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